Exploring the interwar world: The travelogues of Colin Ross (1885-1945)

Project Funding: FWF Austrian Science Fund, P 27244
Project Duration: 01.03.2015–28.02.2017
Project Lead: Siegfried Mattl (LBIGG), until 25.04.2015 / Nico de Klerk (LBIGG)
Project Team: Kristin Kopp (University of Missouri; LBIGG), Joachim Schätz (LBIGG), Katalin Teller (LBIGG)
Project Advisory: Ingo Zechner (LBIGG)
Support: Jeannine Baker, Jacob Benfell, Iris Fraueneder, Christiana Perschon, Katrin Pilz, Christopher Taylor
Project Partners: Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for History and Society (LBIGG), Austrian Film Museum, Institute for Theater, Film and Media Studies, University of Vienna (Vrääth Öhner), Centre for Media History, Macquarie University New South Wales (Bridget Griffen-Foley), Dept. of Film Studies, University of Western Ontario (Tobias Nagl), Dept. of German Studies, McGill University, Montreal (Michael Cowan), Dept. of Media Studies, University of Film & Television, Potsdam-Babelsberg (Michael Wedel), Dept of Media Studies, University of Marburg (Malte Hagener), National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra (Michael Loebenstein)

The focus of the project is on the travel filmmaker, travel book author, and lecturer Colin Ross (1885–1945) as a phenomenon of popular culture. His extensive work is not only exemplary for certain aspects of Weimar Republic culture but also serves to study the specific trends in geopolitical thinking that underlay the so-called conservative revolution.

Ross successfully utilized the opportunities provided by the culture industry and, in collaboration with renowned publishers (Brockhaus, Ullstein) and film companies (Ufa, Tobis), established his own brand. His success was based, not least, on his unique journalistic and cultural-philosophical thinking, which was situated between nationalist colonial tradition and new global thinking, and could also engage audiences of the German and Austrian Left until 1933.

The primary goal of the project was, therefore, the critical interpretation of the network of relationships between Weimar popular culture and ideological contexts as reflected in Ross’s films. The scientific analysis of the previously unexplored film material (film copies in archives in Berlin, London, Moscow, the cinematic estate in the Austrian Film Museum) were combined with a database-driven examination of the author’s written works and lecture activities. This was followed by the historically critical investigation of the discursive and tropological field in which Ross’s oeuvre must be situated. Media hybridity, marketing strategies, as well as geopolitical observations that characterize his works, mutually intersecting, were examined for their correspondence with contemporary scientific discourses, political public spheres, and mass media practices.

The project results were discussed in three international workshops and conferences, disseminated through publications in peer-reviewed journals, and presented on a website, including intermedially processed case studies, among other formats.

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a. Image: Book cover (Colin Ross: Mit dem Kurbelkasten um die Erde. Ein Film-Bild-Buch, Berlin 1926)